'I Don't Care What The Military Says:' Trump Rejects Renaming Fort Bragg

President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office
In this March 27, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump singled out Fort Bragg, North Carolina in restating his opposition to renaming Army posts now named for generals and leaders of the Confederacy during a wide-ranging Fox News interview that aired Sunday.

Trump also renewed his threat to veto next year's defense budget bill unless amendments passed by the House and Senate to change the names were eliminated, but added that he would protect the 3% military pay raise that is part of the bill.

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"I might. Yeah, I might," he told journalist Chris Wallace in the interview, which took place on White House grounds.

When told that the Defense Department and the Army were open to a review of base names, Trump said "excuse me, excuse me. I don't care what the military says. I do -- I'm supposed to make the decision."

He said the community in Fayetteville, North Carolina, outside the sprawling Bragg would likely be opposed to the name change, and noted the contribution soldiers trained at the base made to the nation's defense.

"Fort Bragg is a big deal," Trump said. "We won two World Wars ... nobody even knows Gen. Bragg."

The base was founded in 1918 as Camp Bragg, and is named for Gen. Braxton Bragg, a slaveholder described by historians as a failed commander.

"Go to that community where Fort Bragg is, in a great state, I love that state, go to the community, say how do you like the idea of renaming Fort Bragg, and then what are we going to name it," Trump said.

He also asked who the base could be renamed for: "The Rev. Al Sharpton?"

In citing the New York activist and MSNBC host, Trump said that renaming the bases would spark controversy.

"What are you going to name it, Chris, tell me what you're going to name it? So there's a whole thing here," he said.

"We won two world wars ... beautiful world wars that were vicious and horrible, and we won them out of Fort Bragg, we won out of all of these forts that now they want to throw those names away," he said.

By most counts, the Army now has 10 bases named for Confederate leaders, including Bragg, Fort Benning, Fort Lee and Fort Polk.

"And, no, I'm against that, and you know what, most other people are," he said, citing a poll he did not identify showing 64% were against changing the base names.

In the interview, Trump also defended the display of the Confederate flag, a practice that has come under fire amid racial justice protests following the May 25 killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd while in police custody.

The Marine Corps, U.S. Forces Korea and U.S. Forces Japan have all banned display of the Confederate flag.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on July 17 issued a two-page memo listing flags authorized for display, including the U.S. flag, military service flags, the POW/MIA flag, the flags of U.S. allies and the flags of organizations of which the U.S. is a member, such as NATO. The Confederate flag was not on the list.

In the interview, Wallace asked Trump: "But in the case of the Confederate flag, there are a lot of people who say these were traitors who split from this country, fought this country in large part to preserve slavery. Is the Confederate flag offensive?"

"It depends on who you're talking about, when you're talking about," Trump said.

"When people -- when people proudly have their Confederate flags, they're not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the south, they like the south. People right now like the south. I'd say it's freedom of, of, of many things, but it's freedom of speech," Trump said.

When asked if he was offended by the display of the Confederate flag, Trump responded: "Well, I'm not offended either by Black Lives Matter. That's freedom of speech.

"And you know, the whole thing with cancel culture, we can't cancel our whole history. We can't forget that the North and the South fought. We have to remember that, otherwise we'll end up fighting again," Trump said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Related: Pentagon Bans Confederate Flag on Bases Without Mentioning It By Name

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